Contra-Faith: On the Collision of Reason and Faith


CONTRA-FAITH
Introduction
As so often seems to be the case, the majority of Christians I engage with still believe that atheism is a form of denial. More specifically that it is a denial of faith in God. However, this is inaccurate since it assumes all atheists are in defiance of God, which comes with it the obtuse presumption that anyone who rejects God must have believed in God before they could have rejected him. But this is merely a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter. There is such a thing as non-theism apart from theism, after all.
My form of atheism happens to be not so much an absence of faith (although it is that too), but rather, a form of contra-faith. I see the arguments that contradict faith as being the more dependable, trustworthy, and more reliable line of reasoning and so I side with them. As such, contra-faith arguments (e.g. contrasting, contrary, and contradictory arguments against faith go to show faith based propositions aren’t sustainable) support my atheist position. Atheism in of itself though is simply the absence of theistic belief, but I take the harder hitting edge of anti-theism, because I think theism has it all wrong. What’s more, I believe such a statement is certifiably true.
Equally, since my atheism is arrived at through an understanding of contra-faith arguments, as well as historical evidence contrary to what Christianity states, gives me an added perspective of both the theistic and atheistic positions, albeit in contrast to one another. Such contrast provides excellent means for comparison, but can only be arrived at via a route of healthy skepticism and taking the time to step outside of the framework of one’s pre-existing ideological premises and look at it from the outside in.
A Life Left Critically Unexamined
Ask almost any Christian and they’ll likely tell you that they do not question their faith, mainly because they have no desire to. Even as, I would posit, there is adequate reason to. Such reasons, however, elude most of them. If I am permitted to take a guess as to why, I would say that individuals of faith are, more often than not, guilty of being complacent in their lebensphilosophie. Presumably, to the great horror of Socrates who believed a life unexamined wasn’t worth living, they let their lives and their beliefs go largely unexamined because they see no purpose in questioning the tenets or core ideologies of their faith, and maybe to a lesser degree, because testing the metaphysical claims which their beliefs are predicated on seems too daunting of a task for them. But whatever it may be, it is the rare person of faith who steps outside to look at his faith from a vantage point, from outside the box, and begins to question her beliefs critically and is willing to hold them up to scrutiny. Those who do are probably not your average everyday believer sitting in the pulpit, but are likely to be a more sophisticated person of faith. One who believes faith can’t be had without reason, and that reason can, and for them, does lead to faith. But this ‘thinking spiritualist’ is a rare minority, to say the least.
Still, I have my reservations. When I look around the religious landscape it becomes blatantly clear that most devout practitioners of faith do not question their faith-based beliefs. They just don’t. For them God isn’t even a question of ab esse ad posse valet consequentia, because they have simply reversed the logic, the universe exists, we exist, things exist, therefore God (the Creator) is necessary, so he must exist. Yet such reasoning, for me, is not enough to establish a belief in God, since all it has done is turn God into a semantic paradox: Creation exists therefore the Creator who created it must exist. The real scientific fact of creatio ex nihilo just doesn’t even factor into their equation.
From the outside looking in, as one might expect, it would appear that religious adherents become so enamored with the concepts preached about their god that they rarely find reason to ever think critically about him (or it) in the first place. An intellectual theist may choose to read intellectual arguments for that god, but very seldom do they trace any branch or root from the tree of knowledge, philosophy, or science which is beyond the conventions of their faith. It’s not so much that they fear the alternative theories, although this may play a small part in their reluctance to question their faith (out of fear of losing faith), but instead, they are so indoctrinated, so convinced that what they experience in worship, prayer, Christian community, and life matches exactly what they have been told about god and spiritual faith to such an extent that they find no reason to question anything regarding their sacred held beliefs. When your convictions are that your faith is the highest attainable truth then there can be no other truth worth obtaining. Especially one that would supersede your current certitude.
Ignorance is Bliss
In other words, they are intellectually stifled and culturally cut off,[i] mostly because they have no other perspective to rely on to inform or contrast their opinions with. Inevitably, such an unquestioning position lends itself to favoritism, since their position is the only one they know (or know well) so that a necesse ad esse valet consequentia need not apply. Such modal logic is unfavorable to people of faith, since it requires finding reasons for reaching necessary beliefs, and this requires valid proofs, but such an empirical methodology can never be all that appealing to the person of faith since it puts the burden of proof squarely in their lap. Thus genuine logic is often avoided and the sophist arguments, which often sound logical but sometimes aren’t, get taken up instead. This is probably how theology came about in the first place. Although, the way I see it, the more likely possibility for the friction between reason and faith is that through gaining a reasonable understanding of things people will tend to reject that which becomes manifestly unreasonable, and so this poses a dire threat to religious faith, since much of it is undeniably unreasonable. No one need question the absurdity of Joseph Smith’s magic celestial underpants, or of the Scientology overlord Xenu’s timeless battle with the Thetans, or of Mohammad’s riding a white winged Pegasus and splitting the moon in half, or of magical fruit and a dubious talking snake in a mystical garden paradise who could apparently outwit god. None of this is believable for a rational minded person.
For the general person of faith the pain of having to subject their minds to the mind-bending complexities, not to forget absurdities, of religious belief should be avoided, as not to be outdone by reason perchance to become aware of the inherent faultiness of one’s belief system. Granted, another excuse may be that having one’s mind tied up into a thought pretzel is just never really all that fun, it’s much more peaceful to not have to think about it, let the theologians deal with it, the lay man is free to take his faith for granted—indeed, ignorance is bliss.
Ignorance can exist apart from faith, but faith can rarely ever exist apart from ignorance. Dogmatic driven convictions will likely compound this problem, acting like kindle to a flame, causing a rapid spread of ignorance and assuring that it will become that much more impenetrable. This is for a couple of reasons. First, many religious doctrines teach that any outside influence which tempts you away from your relationship with God or faith is to be shunned, rejected, vilified, and shut out before it has time to plant seeds of doubt. Second, depending on the level of piety of the individual believer, the level of dogmatically instilled distrust may vary drastically. In turn, this causes a wide range of what an individual person of faith allows for; making it nearly impossible to reason with each individual person in quite the same way. Presumably, one sound, rational, and logical argument may work for a few, but others might not be convinced, or even chose to listen for that matter, and some might only listen to part of it before they make up their minds that it just can’t be—because otherwise the skeptics would be proved right—god forbid. All this makes it extremely hard to prove any reasonable claim beyond a reasonable doubt, since each person of faith will argue what seems reasonable to you is not to them, and they will ask you to define what is objectively verifiable, and what is true, but only after you define objectivity and truth according to how they understand it, from the theist’s point of view. Religious types are always the first to doubt a truth claim if it’s not in tune with their devotional understanding of faith, but show them that what you espouse contrary to their beliefs it is verifiably true, and they will claim you’ve changed the meaning of the term or taken everything out of context. Such semantic strategies are common among the low level apologist, who isn’t equipped to answer the real devastating inquiries, but only because, I should point out, because the first reason is true, contrary views must be rejected off hand. Therefore, for those who profess blind faith in god and the teachings of their holy books, contra-faith arguments never have a chance to be properly considered.
A List of Five Consequences
Here lies the problem, when contra-faith arguments are mainly ignored, rarely will a person of faith be given the means to step back and introspectively gaze at their faith in total. And this leaves us with some predictable consequences:
1)      A person of faith will (habitually) keep the faith of their parents.
2)      A person of faith will believe in what their faith teaches them despite the wealth of information challenging their beliefs/faith.
3)      A person of faith will remain ignorant of any number of contra-faith arguments.
4)      A person of faith will remain intellectually stifled and culturally ignorant, i.e. ignorant of most other religions, even sects within one’s own religion, and will often choose to remain uninformed since they automatically distrust any other belief(s) that might be contrary to their own.
5)      A person of faith will almost certainly refuse to face difficult challenges to their faith (e.g. the problem of evil, theodicy, the god of the gaps, etc.) without ever realizing that it’s a challenge to their faith which must be met in the first place.
conclusion
In conclusion, I find that my atheism is only strengthened by contra-faith arguments. The next step is to address these five issues, and figure out a way to inform, correct, and enlighten believers both politely and respectfully so that they don’t feel like they are constantly coming under attack, but also, so that they feel like they are making an eye-opening realization or epiphany all on their own. Much like how I felts when my faith dwindled away to nothing and I realized the reasons why. And the reasons were profound!
Sincerely,
Advocatus Atheist


[i] Just to be clear, I’m not saying people of various cultures are ignorant of the existence of other cultures. I’m saying that those within a religious culture, or sub-culture, don’t always have a sufficient understanding of other religious based cultures. We all know of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, but how many Christians know what it is a Muslim believes, and how many Muslims and Christians could tell you what they believe differently from a Jew? Or a Hindu? Or a Buddhist? Comparative religion plays a large part in unveiling the truth that religions have the cultish tendency to be exclusive institutions with a baser tribal mentality. This is to be expected though by institutions which are based on hierarchical thinking and absolutist assumptions about the despotic nature of heavenly kingdoms filled with divine Lord(s), one-party allegiances, and authoritative holy books. Everything which informs the main three monotheistic faiths is viewed in terms of black and white, good vs. evil, us and them, one God vs. many, believer vs. unbeliever, where loyalty is honorable and apostasy and heresy are intolerable.  Those who have deemed other beliefs to be intolerable, even before having considered them, are not likely to consider them. Bear in mind, this intolerance breeds mistrust, animosity, and prejudices directed at anyone outside of the faith, therefore lending to the ignorance I speak of.

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10 comments

  1. W'dup Vickster"A life left unexamined isn't worth living" isn't really true just because some one "smart" said it. It's not really true for an Atheist or a Christian. It also runs contrary to "Ignorance is bliss". The unexamined life for you and me may seem a bit "naive" but who gets to decide the type of life that's worth living? I say that choice belongs to him/her that is living it."Ignorance is Bliss": Yes that is so true. But it could also apply to an Atheist? You know how from what we are learning about our world makes you think that Christianity as we know it now will dissipate into something else. Well, I say the same thing about Darwinism and Evolution. The more Scientists discover, the more likely we will look back and think we were living in the dark ages thinking like that. I'm not saying they will give God the credit, but I think they will have to "invent" new reasons why God couldn't have created us?Your "Consequences" are probably for the most part pretty accurate. And I will follow this series if and when you decide to do your list. But they really don't prove that God doesn't exist. It just proves we trust those closest to us. And I will disagree that we all choose to remain uninformed tho. Some on both sides have a tendency to do that.Your faith may have dwindled away, but it could come flooding back in an instant.Look forward to your upcoming posts, Peace.feen

  2. Feeno-Thanks for reading! I think you miss the underlying gist of Socrates statement since it's out of its original context.His intent was that if you just believed whatever you were told, and never examined the beliefs you life was based on, then you weren't truly living your own life.Bascially, if you follow someone else's set of laws and rules, not quite knowing why, then you are under the obligation to live and behave a certain way, a way you feel might be right because it's all you know, but which might actually be wrong.Without examining your life, comparing to others, and thinking seriously about the beliefs, Socrates believed one would be bound to the chains of intellectual slavery without even knowing it. Because they grew up in slavery, and they never questioned their lot in life, they would not know freedom.And this concerned both Plato and Socrates who both espoused a strong sense of justice. You cannot have justice when such obvious oppression and maltreatment exists. And that's what it means to live a life unexamined. In it's context it is a powerful sentiment which should not go overlooked.And I admit, my faith could come flooding back, *if and only if, it meets all the prerequisites of the burden of proof to satisfy the skeptics critical standard of trustworthiness. This means everything under the banner of Christianity would have to cease causing cognitive dissidence, errors would be non-existent, Christians would be more moral than anyone else because they'd constantly be moving toward grace, Biblical claims would be supported by vast swaths of empirical evidence, and this evidence would never be in contention with each other, moreover it would be in tune with what science reveals (instead of always adapting to what science has to say after the facts), it would be predictive (meaning prophesy would be so accurate that our best supercomputers computing quantum mechanic probabilities would come out less accurate than the Bible), but so far the numbers of the Bible are just sloppy guesswork. Additionally, people of faith with divine revelations would have to be verified, and not just believed on a matter of faith, Christian atrocities would have to be accounted for one way or another–and every single one would need to be proved either sin or a supernatural interference from Satan (who would then need to be scientifically proved to be believed), and last but not least, Christ's resurrection and miraculous nature would have to be historically verified once and for all–with extra-biblical support–by piles of evidence found everywhere, not just in one select book which doesn't match up with anything else in antiquity.Yet I just don't see any of these happening any time soon. So there are other explanations which account for these problematic and troublesome areas, and all of which lead to genuine skepticism.

  3. The fact that a person of faith usually inherits the faith of their parents is one which is constantly minimized (if not overlooked entirely). My favorite question to proselytizing Mormons is whether they come from a Mormon upbringing (95% answer yes). To the few who answer no, I ask whether they will accept that I am the second coming of Christ if they were to see me walk on water. When they (inevitably) answer no, I ask them why they don't apply that same natural skepticism to the events described in the Book of Mormon. By that point in time they are usually heading back to the street. I love it ….

  4. Feeno-Just like heliocentricity, gravity, etc…, evolution will stand the test of time. No amount of wishful thinking will make the facts disappear. We only defy gravity by understanding physics, not faith. Science moves us forward.

  5. DevinAt no time in the history of man did the religious and non religious disagree about gravity. And whether or not we understand physics, apples will always fall off of trees downward.Once I found out what heliocentricity is I might comment about that as well.Peace good man. feeno

  6. Yo TJust a thought, and this is your place, so do as you wish. But can't we do away with the "Your comment will be visible after approval" thing? Isn't there some way you can erase comments later if needed? What if me and Devin want to talk while your being productive all day?Later, feen

  7. That's what MSN and Skype is for!Actually, I had it set for open public the first few weeks, but people began to flame bait, and I was forced to take down all their comments.Some people, on both sides of the religious debate, sometimes just can't control their tongues. Also, this blogs traffic has been picking up and I've been having to delete ads and trolls that have been coming on here. I don't let nonsense get in the way of a good discussion.Additionally, I want hear people's thoughtful comments. This "delay" forces people to evaluate, or re-evaluate, what they have said or read.Since religion is a sensitive topic, and people often take things personally when it comes to their experiences regarding such, insensitive or unthoughtful words can hurt. So I will continue to regulate this blog, but I promise I don't censor people's thoughts and opinions, I only censor the inane things like "I hope you burn in hell you sin loving God-hating atheist" and the like, which I have received in the past. Insults don't count as informed opinions in my book, and so long as their are idiots out their like that, I'm going to have to run a strict house. Apologies.

  8. Feeno-Just curious but does the religious and scientific community have to agree on everything for it to be fact?What I meant was evolution will never die out just like gravity will never die out. Whether or not you believe in evolution doesn't negate the fact that we share a common ancestor. Just like the evidence for gravity–an apple falling down from a tree–the evidence for evolution is incontrovertible. No amount of wishful thinking can make the facts disappear.As to heliocentricity, this means that the earth is not the center of the universe, the sun is. This theory comes from Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo who was mocked and scorned by the church. He was convicted of suspicion of heresy and was sentenced to live out his life under house arrest. It would be absurd to claim that the earth is the center of the universe now days. But 400 years ago this was the case made by the church. They used specific Bible verses to back up their counter-theory of geocentrism. But truth will out. Science prevailed.Peace,Devin

  9. Feeno-It's not that I think *all Christians choose to remain uninformed, because as I stated there is a rare minority that chooses to engage the heavy hitting arguments. But on average, most Christians do not, and the reason for this (I feel) is obvious.Because the nature of their faith often compels them not to.It's not that they're being ignorant for the purpose of remaining ignorant. They'd only seem to make themselves more foolish than they already appear by openly bracing ignorance, and some do actually do this–Young Earth Creationists for example.My point was, there are certain aspects of faith which either place restrictions and limitations on how they approach knowledge, and this is on top of having a doctrine which can be enforced by dogma to regulate Christians thinking so that they even perceive outside ideas, differences, and opposing beliefs as a direct threat to faith.All of this is why they choose to stay ignorant–because they chose faith over any other alternatives. Again, this is not all Christians, but it is a large majority of them, and that's why I think this argument holds.I have family members and Christian friends who don't believe in evolution, who believe ancient Biblical figures may have had dinosaurs as pets, who think you're attacking their 'sacred' faith if you even disagree with any of their rather blinkered fundamentalist rhetoric, and what's worst, nearly none of them know anything about the Bible or Holy Scriptures. Their faith is a hand-me-down, a second rate regurgitation of their parents beliefs, it's not a system of belief they can even defend… not only because they don't know how (although this too)… but because they couldn't even tell you as a Christian what Christians ought to believe–other than to make the generic statements of believing in what the Bible teaches and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.Good enough… for an uncritical non-thinking person I suppose.

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